Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: The Abduction Chronicles

The Abduction Chronicles The Abduction Chronicles by Thomas L. Hay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had the honor of beta reading "The Abduction Chronicles" for author Thomas Hay when he was still contemplating separating Chronicles up into three books. I found the story I read entertaining and creative as it was. Hay's way of crossing the lines of the reality for humans and the questions of what might be out there is quite honestly a breath of fresh literary air. The reader is never truly on top of the story, nor should he be; what fun would that be? Keep in mind that the characters, as off the wall as they may seem, as quirky and quite honestly dumb as they might show themselves to be, serve a purpose you can't yet see. You do not know where this story is going, how it will reach its finality, that much I promise you. Everything that a reader might be thinking is a mistake that is railroading the whole plot, I say to you, just keep reading. It's not what you think, it's better. It's not completely absurd, it's a possible truth if you can let go of the Starbucks world you live in most of the time. "The Abduction Chronicles" is absolutely sci-fi but with a human element that, if you let it, will open your mind. At the very least you'll get hulluva entertaining read out of it!

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Review: That Woman: Beating the odds in colonial New York

That Woman: Beating the odds in colonial New York That Woman: Beating the odds in colonial New York by Wayne Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit that historical fiction as a genre is a one I have to stumble upon rather than go in search of. That Woman by Wayne Clark makes lists of Great, Recommended, and Superbly Written Historical Fiction lists on The summary hints of a cunning female lead besting her male counterparts in a harsh, unforgiving time and place in history.

Sarah as a character came across tough as nails with just enough vulnerability, therefore escaping the damsel in distress scenario I so despise. She is a woman who bends and twists with the current in such a way to further herself and those she loves. The bad guys are clearly defined as such and the straightforwardness is a breath of fresh air in a genre where that kind of crystalline definition can come off as gimmicky or cliche. I would be surprised to find a reader who felt they had read this very story before save different character names and divergent settings. Clark sets Sarah exactly where he wants her to be in your mind and good luck telling yourself differently.

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Review: Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets

Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets by K.J. Blocker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets is billed as a children's book and yes, there are many child friendly aspects to the novel. There are also a lot of angles that are not so benign and unfortunately during my reading I kept reacting to those parts with a tad of parental trepidation.

Jimmy is the youth in the narrative. He is present for the trials and tribulations that the plot throws at the characters but it still seemed to me that he and his feelings weren't the true receptacle of the lessons exhibited in Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets. Jimmy's father, Tom, and the rest of the adults in the story felt like the centerpiece of the story and it didn't jive with the children's book I expected when I started to read. The writing here is gilden prose in some parts and juvenile in others and the wild swing made me dizzy.

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Review: Silken Prey

Silken Prey Silken Prey by John Sandford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's truly not that this book wasn't good. It was. Silken Prey is everything a political crime thriller should be; characters you love and despise, underhanded tactics to the Nth degree, and a precise pace pulling the reader along at a rate perfectly suited for this genre. On the other hand, I was so disappointed at the ending. Yeah yeah yeah, it's the reality of this type of thing but damn, I wanted a bang that all the bad guys felt in their cold, dead hearts!

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Review: Sapphire of Souls

Sapphire of Souls Sapphire of Souls by M.R. Mathias
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sapphire of Souls is Book 2 of 3 in the Fantastica series by M.R. Mathias. I am coming in cold, having not read Book 1, Taerak's Void. In my opinion, you really need to start at the beginning to truly appreciate Fantastica. I have read many reviews saying that coming in on Book 2 was no problem, and to some degree I can see that. Fantastica was a solid science fiction/mythology novel and it could conceivably stand alone; I did enjoy it and didn't find myself confused or lost. Perhaps just knowing there was a previous book is what did me in. This is in no way the fault of the author.

The defining characteristic of a good sci-fi for me comes in both the world created by the writer and the array of creatures and the personalities he gives them. In Fantastica we have humans, elves, dwarves, dragons, wizards, and demons. Everything was vividly illustrated in the most colorful way, somehow making the reader forget they're reading rather than seeing the story in the mind's eye.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review: Accumulation

Accumulation Accumulation by Buan Boonaca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Baun Boonaca's Accululation finds itself on Goodreads lists such as Best Dark Humor, Best Quirky Dark Novels, and Best Books You've Never Heard Of. That alone had my attention and from page one, this novel was unparalleled in cleverness and provocative all around. In the beginning, Accumulation comes off as a comedy. Cam's character plays sophomoric nearing simpleton, standing on the precipice of growing up and leaning toward not doing so. It's right at the point when you accept that vibe and settle in that there's an almost infinitesimal shift in the tone of the story. Before you know it, you're knee deep in a much different comedy; something a little more morose. I wouldn't call it dark or sinister, it's more a realities of life kind of thing.

I don't want to give anything away so I hesitate to delve much into the plot beyond what the summary gives us. Accumulation is much more than simply the story of a young man who gets one tattoo and more and more mysteriously appear on his body. So much more.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: In the Woods

In the Woods In the Woods by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, folks, if you like a little closure in your novels, look elsewhere. I'm incensed at this ending! One horrific murder solved. The big one you waited to figure out for 429 pages? Apparently not necessary.

This is my first Tana French book. The writing is incredibly good, descriptive, inventive... any number of flowery adjectives will do. French's characters are brilliantly realistic. And by realistic, I mean they're so well written you might want to strangle them at times. As gobsmacked as I feel at getting such a hemorrhaging open wound of an ending, In the Woods has made a fan of me.

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Review: The Interview Room

The Interview Room The Interview Room by Roderick Anscombe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a decent crime thriller. You almost can't go wrong with psychiatrists and their crazy ass patients. There really isn't a big reveal to the reader, only to Paul, it seemed. I saw it coming a mile away and spent a lot of the time I read this incredibly frustrated with Paul, despising his wife, and not even a little concerned with the villain. So perhaps 'decent' is being generous.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Review: Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit

Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit by Anne Bahr Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are a person clawing your way through the business world, you might want to consider reading Do Good. Today's consumer demands more than just a satisfactory product, they require knowledge that a company is looking out for more than Number One. That is Brand Citizenship and any business person should be acutely aware of and embracing it because it's the only future.

"Based on extensive research with thousands of consumers, Do Good documents this sea change and explains how to embed social consciousness into a company’s DNA. Packed with examples and original data, the five-step model highlights the new rules of business:

TRUST: Deliver on promises
ENRICHMENT: Make daily life easier or more inspiring
RESPONSIBILITY: Treat people and the environment with respect
COMMUNITY: Mirror values shared by customers, employees, and partners
CONTRIBUTION: Make a difference in the world."

Anne Bahr Thompson sets forth a clear and candid handbook citing real world examples and detailing the nitty gritty of the way to the hearts of consumers. No longer is the stereotypical shrewd, heartless business giant poised to snag the loyal buyer. A smaller, social conscious company known to nurture employees and embrace environmental friendliness can and likely will win the hearts and therefore the devotion of those with their fingers on the button of their success or failure. So simple and a long time coming!

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Review: Time and Blood

Time and Blood Time and Blood by Sherry Rentschler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantasies including mythical creatures like dragons and fairies are a dime a dozen. Fantasies written well enough to virtually allow the reader to forget that these creatures aren't actually real are most definitely not common. Time and Blood is a relatively short novel, though not short on details somehow. The characters demand to be cared for and the dialogue directs each scene without the dreaded "telling" aftertaste we all know and despise. With a plot full of action and heart, this book pulls you along through the story smoothly and easily.

Time and Blood is my first literary encounter with Sherry Rentschler. Reading up on her you will find that she is a poet as well as an author of several different genres of fiction. Thinking back on it now, I can appreciate that she brought a little of everything together here and perhaps that's why it was so good. I hope to be able to read more of her works soon.

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Review: Ahe'ey

Ahe'ey Ahe'ey by Jamie Le Fay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ahe'ey stands tall as a smart, full bodied fantasy written by the obviously talented Jamie Le Fay. Touted as a feminist's dream of a novel, the 'I am woman, hear me roar' vibe runs deep without being obnoxious. When you reflect on the fact that this manages to be a girl power work and a romance, you begin to see how insightful Le Fay writes. Piled on feminism and romance, Ahe'ey also mixes bits of action, fantasy, and paranormal in and still it doesn't feel overdone.

One of the few grumbles I have about the book is that the reader is thrown into this story seemingly in the middle. We have no idea who anyone is or why they might be important. For someone like me, that is jarring and my compulsive need to have everything known and straight in my head can't handle it. I am aware that some people enjoy massive unknowns in their literature; those people should have no issues. The appendices found at the end of the book laid out much useful information to help clear up aspects of the story. I wish I had known it was included, I think I would have been less lost.

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Review: Amazon Echo User Guide: Newbie to Expert in 1 Hour!

Amazon Echo User Guide: Newbie to Expert in 1 Hour! Amazon Echo User Guide: Newbie to Expert in 1 Hour! by Tom Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tom and Jenna Edwards are Amazon's pet technical writers and for good reason. This user guide begins with admitting that none of this is new or even elusive information, only that it has been culled from websites and product inserts far and wide and presented here in this simple, singular place. I appreciate a healthy dose of honesty in a technical manual.

As an Alexa owner (or does she own me now?) I can attest to some of the quirks she has and how frustrating they can be. It only seems reasonable to assume that the Echo and Echo Plus would follow suit. I'm anxiously awaiting the Edwards summation on getting Alexa to understand the words I say even the third time I say them to her. Hint, hint.

Here is a straightforward, plain language handbook to help even the most technically impotent user master Amazon's Echo Plus. The time savings this provides by eliminating hours and hours scouring the internet for this information alone is worth the price.

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Review: Bound by Desire: Age gap love stories

Bound by Desire: Age gap love stories Bound by Desire: Age gap love stories by I J Stinington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bound by Desire is a collection of short, erotic, fantasy stories. There is something included for those with sexual fantasies of many different persuasions. Erotica is a tough genre from my experience; a thin line between sexy and pornographic exists and riding it just right must be precarious. As far as sexual content, I would say that I J Stinington did manage to land on the less tawdry side here.

I tried to keep in mind that characters in short stories cannot be as fully fleshed out as they might be in a full length novel. Having said that, none of the characters in these stories were impressive; I know that I will not think of them beyond posting this review. They served a specific purpose for each narrative only, mostly by way of unapologetic cliche. The dialogue in a couple of the stories was done well but more often it lacked the natural cadence that gives a realistic touch to it. Overall, for erotica, Bound by Desire was adequate.

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Review: The Wordsmith

The Wordsmith The Wordsmith by Alan Ayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wordsmith is absolutely dazzling in the most ominous fashion. The story is reminiscent of a Stephen King novel in terms of a unique and unconventional storyline. Unless you are a clandestine, evil genius, even when some of the mystery is seemingly revealed, don't assume you know where it is headed because you don't. Alan Ayer is a gifted storyteller whom we are bound to read more from in the future based on this, his first novel.

Walt is an acclaimed author who has made a fortune on several brilliant works of fiction that, as it turns out, he has nothing to do with creating. Living a lie and benefitting immensely from it has taken a toll on his conscience. His relationship is suffering and the fragile framework surrounding the deceit is crumbling around him. What ensues is a fascinating tale of the lengths a man will go to for fame and fortune. I want to give nothing away, every reveal is worth the wait.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret

Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret by Raymond Fong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anyone can appreciate a how to guide written by an author who is an expert in the focused field. With Growth Hacking you get double the pleasure. Raymond Fong and Chad Ridderson are two highly skilled authorities on business and marketing. Together they bring the everyday business owner a unique technique for growing an enterprise from nearly dead to astounding profits called growth hacking using an Automated Sales Process, or ASP as it's referred to throughout the book.

Written in layman's terms, the average person who hasn't spent their career in Silicone Valley can easily comprehend and execute the game plan that is growth hacking. Informational illustrations throughout provide diagrams to emphasize important points and tidbits of information seemingly intended to encourage individuality and a sense of enthusiasm in the reader. Ending with the notion that success is a process and not a destination, this guidebook is one every business owner who wants to take his or her business to the next level should have on hand.

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Review: The Scalian Legacy: Victory Before The War

The Scalian Legacy: Victory Before The War The Scalian Legacy: Victory Before The War by Norbert Monfort
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In general, I will spurn a science fiction book once I see the words aliens or space travel in the summary. That specific sci-fi focus rarely captures my attention, even when written by authors who are brilliant at their craft. The Scalian Legacy by Norbert Monfort snuck up on me and somehow managed to have me furiously turning the pages (or clicking the next arrow as the case may be). So much so that I have my fingers crossed that Monfort brings these characters and the engrossing universe in which they exist on further adventures in the form of a series. That is not a game plan I put forth to an abundance of authors. *Please hear me, Mr. Monfort!

Sit down with plenty of time to read because finding a slow spot to take a break (or sleep) will be a formidable task. Jack's rescue mission turns into an adventure filled with peril and wonder the abundance of rarely exist in any pleasing way in one novel. Truly a thrilling read from beginning to end.

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Review: Aftermath

Aftermath Aftermath by Joe Reyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Post-apocalyptic fiction is quickly becoming a coveted genre for me. Joe Reyes' Aftermath most certainly belongs on any dystopian loving reader's To Read list.

Set in a decimated United States that is no longer a formal country, Aftermath portrays life after the bombs fell from several different points of view. Ian, Carmen, Sara, Ron, Eric, Justin, and Alice are each rebuilding their lives and surviving by different tactics, ranging from slave to vigilante and all positions between. The moral compass swings wide among them yet as different as their paths may be, they find themselves facing the same future together.

This is not a book for those who can't handle a good amount of gore. Blood and guts are the least of the triggers you may find yourself recoiling from in this novel. That said, in my opinion, Aftermath wouldn't be the triumph that it is without every bit of it. Reyes has crafted a novel capturing the potential consequence of actions we are witnessing in the real world and it's as riveting as it is terrifying.

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Review: The Piketty Problem: or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming

The Piketty Problem: or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming The Piketty Problem: or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming by Garth Hallberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first glance, The Piketty Problem appears to be a book geared toward children simply by cover image and the title including the phrase 'the robots are coming, the robots are coming". It most definitely is not that and furthermore, on the surface, it borders on non-fiction thinly veiled as fiction, an alternate reality, if you will. I by no stretch of the imagination mean any of that in a negative way. In fact I found it to be the best type of political satire; that which makes you think. Garth Hallberg nailed it perfectly here.

We're all living in a world where Donald Trump is president. However you feel about that fact, you have to admit it is a scenario few truly thought would come to fruition. In The Piketty Problem, Hallberg provides us with another scenario most of us aren't conscious of being on the verge of reality, robots replacing humans in the workforce and all that might entail. The story is propelled by characters who seem to be black and white good and bad guys until you realize it's not as cut and dry as it first seemed. Witty dialogue and a smooth flowing plot line makes for an easy, enjoyable read. By the end of the book, you just might not be as so confidant in your convictions as you were on page one.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Review: Songs of the Deliverer III: Glory Born

Songs of the Deliverer III: Glory Born Songs of the Deliverer III: Glory Born by Elvo Bucci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Glory Born tells the story of a grieving old man and an orphan girl who are called to witness the birth of a miracle child. As they strive to fulfill their mission they are confronted by evil and tyranny. Success means salvation but if they fail, the world may be lost forever." -Elvo Bucci

Elvo Bucci's Songs of the Deliverer III: Glory Born is labelled children's and religious. The author states that this book is "written to help our children and teens experience faith and understand what love is". Based on my experience as an elementary school librarian, most kids below the fourth grade aren't going to grasp the meaning of this book. Bucci goes about his quest to show the true meaning of love through a work of fiction in Glory Born, the third in the Songs of the Deliverer series.

As an agnostic reader I tried to focus on the moral lessons rather than religious ones here. Christmas is upon us and whatever you believe in terms of the origins of the holiday, I think most of us can agree that this world could use more love and compassion. If we as a society could find it within ourselves to put more emphasis on people and not things, December 25 would become a celebration of love and life rather than gift count and excess.

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Review: The Golden Scepter

The Golden Scepter The Golden Scepter by Alex Zabala
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Golden Scepter is the second in the Chauncy Rollock series by Alex Zabala and Deyego Alehandro. Treasure of the Mayan King came before this and I have not read that. I tried to get the jist via summaries and reviews and I'll admit that Mayan King sounded as if it was better but overall the reviews were worse. For me, The Golden Scepter was okay, bordering on good. Perhaps I wasn't invested enough in Chauncy having not read the first book, but he felt like a cliche to me. Keep in mind I rolled my eyes through every Indiana Jones movie I ever watched, which wasn't even all of them, so it could be simply that this action/adventure/mythology genre is never going to land on my Best Reads list.

My lack of interest in no way is the fault of these authors. In fact the writing was very good. The proofreader in me appreciated the lack of grammatical and typographical errors. I enjoyed the flow of dialogue between characters, that can be harder to accomplish than you might think. I wouldn't deliberately steer anyone away from this book. I know many people who would love it so I think that speaks positively about The Golden Scepter.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Review: Escape From Injustice: Wrongly accused of murder in 1850s England, a young man escapes and meets his love on a ship under sail for Australia at the time of the great gold rush.

Escape From Injustice: Wrongly accused of murder in 1850s England, a young man escapes and meets his love on a ship under sail for Australia at the time of the great gold rush. Escape From Injustice: Wrongly accused of murder in 1850s England, a young man escapes and meets his love on a ship under sail for Australia at the time of the great gold rush. by Warne Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warne Wilson's Escape From Injustice weighs in at a hefty 455 pages and it's not only the page count that packs the punch. This tale of woe and wonder isn't a lighthearted summer read.

"Wrongly accused of murder in 1850s England, a young man escapes and meets his love on a ship under sail for Australia at the time of the great gold rush."

John Lille is a character who becomes essentially a whipping boy of life. From a privileged upbringing comes a boy approaching manhood with next to no idea what that actually entails. Well, life said, "Let me show you, John", and proceeds to deal him blow after blow after devastating blow until his life scarcely resembles what he once knew. As the blurb indicates, John Lille is wrongly accused and convicted of murder and faces the death penalty. He wisely decides to abscond and sets forth on a journey filled with unimaginable heartache, bouts of sickness and health, and financial affluence and pauperism. Will John experience a finale celebrated by tears of joy or pain?

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Intro to Sorcerers' Dynasty: "The new age of darkness was about to fall. It was the epoch of nightmares, demons, and hateful spirits, hatched out from the foul womb of mankind's subconscious."

Dark, right? Alternate histories tend to go that route and author Stephen Perkins provides no break from the norm. I want to say very little about the plot because discovering every little thing in this flipped inside out fantasy gave me the optimum reading experience.

To every positive there is a negative, or so they say. The negatives in Sorcerers' Dynasty, for me, came with wildly changing personality traits and actions of numerous characters. Some of the inconsistencies came within one scene and my beta reading spidey senses were trembling. I said earlier that learning everything about this world and the story was enjoyable, and it was. However, it was a LOT. By a lot, I mean perhaps too much for one book. There is so much more that could be expounded upon to the extend of enough content for several books.

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Review: Invasion

Invasion Invasion by Roxanne Bland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you find a book that can combine the vampire, werewolf, and alien genres in a way in which the reader's eyes don't become exhausted from near constant rolling towards the back of the head, bravo! Roxanne Bland seems to have cracked that elusive code with Invasion. If you - like me - read the summary and thought, "oh good lord, this can't go right", think again.

Suspend your sense of reality and feasibility for 300+ pages and fall into the world of the angst ridden Kurt (Vampire Master of Seattle), the tortured love story of Parker (Alpha werewolf) and Melera (intergalactic assassin), and the resourceful Garrett Larkin (super witch of the Balthus Coven) as they band together against the evil scheming of Mag Beloc and impending alien invasion of Earth. The story is dark and gritty, full of astonishingly well developed characters on a quest you probably never imagine. A for originality in Invasion, Bland!

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Review: Health And Fitness Tips That Will Change Your Life: Create a healthy lifestyle from beginner to winner with mind-set, diet and exercise habits

Health And Fitness Tips That Will Change Your Life: Create a healthy lifestyle from beginner to winner with mind-set, diet and exercise habits Health And Fitness Tips That Will Change Your Life: Create a healthy lifestyle from beginner to winner with mind-set, diet and exercise habits by James Atkinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gym rats and couch potatoes alike can learn something from James Atkinson's yearlong help guide, Health and Fitness Tips. Because this a routine that is spread over a significant amount of time, having this in paper format might be helpful. The author is a certified fitness coach, long distance runner, and bodybuilder. I find that adequate experience to offer advice for adopting a healthy lifestyle.

This self-help book stands out to me for not being gimmicky. There are no restrictive food plans pushed, no supplements for purchase, and no more material needed than this one book and a desire to change your life. The style the information is given in is one of real life. Simple, quick adjustments to current eating habits, customizable exercise additions, and common sense nixing of negative influences in the way you approach your health in general. Health and Fitness Tips is a no-nonsense manual for living the healthiest life you possibly can, regardless of your current position on the health spectrum.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: Three Days in September

Three Days in September Three Days in September by Luna Miller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Luna Miller is the author of the novella, Three Days in September. Gabriel is a painter who seems to have lost his will to paint. To get back on track he loads up his car and drives to an isolated cabin to hunker down until he gets his groove back. Enter several locals that Gabriel interacts with and the stage is set for a long weekend with an uncertain outcome.

There are seven 'main characters' and so many in a novella is a bit much to keep up with easily. That restrictive length also denies the time to fully develop these characters. Instead, the author is forced to tell the reader their personalities rather than the more fulfilling option of letting each character reveal themselves. This story could be so much better with some more length, character development, a more streamlined plot structure, and a good editor/proofreader.

It is worth noting that there are several incredibly vivid sex scenes in this story, including rape. I think triggers like that should be announced so that people who cannot handle it don't get blindsided.

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Review: 7DS:Rip

7DS:Rip 7DS:Rip by Vichey Pueblo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

7DS:Rip is the first of the Seven Deadly Sins series authored by Vichey Pueblo. The premise is that demons have ravaged Earth and seven warriors, led by Rip, have joined forces to save the world. Each warrior must overcome his sins to earn a place in Heaven. Rip's sin is Pride. Sprinkle in some beautiful women and Rip has his work cut out for him.

This take on the seven deadly sins personifies each one, book by book. We've all seen movies and read books about them but this author went a completely unique direction with it. If action gets you into a book, this has that. If romance floats your boat, this has that. If you like a little raunchiness in your love scenes, this has that. Fully developed characters throughout? Well written dialogue? A Kindle book that has been through the hands of a decent proofreader? Check, check, check.

My only issue was that some of the book seemed very adult themed and some was juvenile, as though perhaps it had been first written for one audience and then changed to suit another. Still, a good story with more to come.

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Review: Inherit The Whirlwind: The Final Showdown Between Science And Religion

Inherit The Whirlwind: The Final Showdown Between Science And Religion Inherit The Whirlwind: The Final Showdown Between Science And Religion by D. R. Pope
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Religion versus science. Talk about a subject I refuse to debate with anyone save a very select few... D.R. Pope brings us Inherit the Whirlwind, a novel containing subject matter sure to turn even the most congenial dinner guests into UFC contenders. At least no one would say the dinner party was boring, right?

The opening of this novel is a first person account concluding with a character eaten by a shark. After this the story is told through blog posts where we are introduced to Professor Joe Colliver, a scientist working on delaying death and even resurrecting the dead by the use of clones. This, unsurprisingly, angers and terrifies the religious folks. What follows is a legal battle for the Professor to continue his work closely watched and reported to us via blog posts.

I think this novel has potential. The telling of the story through the blog, the hefty topic at the center of the story, and the talent of this author should have come together making this book fantastic. Somehow the characters felt flat, neither religion nor science was given its due diligence, and many of the legal aspects were simply unbelievable and silly. I don't have adequate words for the ending, it was so much less than it could have been.

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Review: Cathy's World

Cathy's World Cathy's World by M.A.R. Unger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cathy's World is one of the Matti James mystery series written by M.A.R. Unger. This installment is number five in the series but I wasn't confused at all so the sequence doesn't seem to matter greatly for the story to make sense. Matti James is a forensic facial reconstruction expert living in Las Vegas next door to aging actress, Cathy Britton. Cathy has a flair for the dramatic, whether that be a by product of her profession or signs that someone is out to get her remains to be seen. Matti finds herself embroiled in Cathy's drama and the twists and turns in this book will leave you spinning yet grinning.

Unger's writing is obviously bolstered by much research. Getting the nuances right is paramount in crime fiction and Unger is a master. Her dialogue is a treat to read due to the humor among countless other things she wrote just right. There are plenty of viable suspects without the feeling of being slapped in the face by red herrings the whole time. The just thick enough plot flows perfectly to a conclusion you probably didn't see coming.

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Review: Ketogenic Slow Cooker Recipes: Easy & Delicious Cooking for the Keto Diet

Ketogenic Slow Cooker Recipes: Easy & Delicious Cooking for the Keto Diet Ketogenic Slow Cooker Recipes: Easy & Delicious Cooking for the Keto Diet by Charlotte Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ketogenic. That's a word I have grown to loathe nearly as much as I love bread and pasta. Also, I'm not the woman who reads cookbooks for fun. Although perhaps I should because I can cook all of about five things total. So do you understand my dilemma with this cookbook?

All that said, Charlotte Baker had me at slow cooker. If you're going to commit to this type of diet, there's no reason not to make the meal prep as easy as possible and it really doesn't get easier than using a slow cooker. You do, however, have to plan ahead.

This cookbook is full of recipes for everything from breakfast to dessert. The majority of the ingredients are readily available and common which is not always the case with these diet specific recipes. Baker gives the calorie count for each meal as well as carbohydrate and protein amounts. Directions are easy to follow and simple. Overall, this is a must have for those embarking on the keto lifestyle.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review: Intrinsic

Intrinsic Intrinsic by Jerry Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"In a world where nothing is as it seems comes a woman with the power to possess the souls and wills of men, to do with as she pleases. Jatara thirsts for world domination, moved by an unrelenting drive to capture and control the minds of her subjects."

This intro sets up one heck of a backdrop for the story to be told. Intrinsic, written by Jerry Collins, is the first part of an upcoming fantasy series with a ton of potential. There is a lot going on here. Sorcery, magic, and demons surround these characters who unfortunately feel under inflated despite the sense that so much more is going on with them. Perhaps more characterization and fleshing out will happen in later books but I think the story would benefit from those being explored in this one. It's hard to get behind the desires of these characters when you don't understand their true motivation.The story moves very quickly which is something I tend to enjoy however, I can see where some readers might feel rushed through the story.

Intrinsic is a story on the cusp of being epic and it's worth the read if you accept that you might have to visualize the missing parts.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: The Matriarch Matrix

The Matriarch Matrix The Matriarch Matrix by Maxime Trencavel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reviews for The Matriarch Matrix are widely varied. So much so that it was difficult to even nail down what the plot of the book was to be. The opening scene didn't do much to clear things up but what it did manage to do was capture my interest. Throughout the book the reader is transported through time in all manner of nonlinear terms.

Trencavel develops many multifaceted characters for her readers to love and hate. One complaint I have concerning characters is that the women are written to be strong and then all but curtsey and cry their way through the book. Also many of the characters possessed grandiose assets such as beauty, sheer body mass, intellect, and inner turmoil beyond the point I could take seriously. One or two characters being written that way would have been fine but even Hollywood movies have average characters balancing out the odds.

Something I think people should realize about this book is that if rape is a trigger subject for you, choose another book. I'm not one of those people and still I found this a bit much.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: Pianos and Penance

Pianos and Penance Pianos and Penance by Dan Groat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dan Groat is back with Gifford Ulrich. Giff is the new Jack Reacher according to many. I, myself, never read the Jack Reacher series so I couldn't say one way or the other. What I can say is that I love me some Giff Ulrich. Just as in Monarchs and Mendicants, someone in Giff's circle is dead, more are being threatened and Giff Ulrich doesn't simply sit around waiting for someone to take care of it. This time he teams up with a computer whiz, a retired police detective, and a buddy from work to reveal the devastating truth that a serial killer is preying on women in the area. Of course he is told by the police working the case to leave the detective work to them but Giff wouldn't dare leave such an important job to the half-wits he sees the police as.

Again, Dan Groat weaves an meticulous tale of murder filled with characters you can't help but love and look forward to seeing in future books.

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Blood and Roses

Blood and Roses Blood and Roses by Jordan Petrarca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blood and Roses is like The Godfather meets Game of Thrones and it's fantastic! Petrarca opens with a gritty letter from the narrator giving a brief and crass synopsis of Exodus, the seven "Blessed" families who wield all the power, and the mysterious magic known as Relics that are the key to maintaining that power. In the beginning of the book, the patriarch of the Rose family is targeted by his enemies, the aftermath of which demands that the youngest son, Ric, return home and get his life together for his family. From there it is non-stop action, perfectly placed humor, and a ride you don't want to get off of.

The language, especially regarding sex, is particularly vulgar so for those who don't like the F word might find themselves overwhelmed. I am not one of those people and I thought the language made the whole story more believable. These are gangsters so I would have an issue with gangsters who speak like altar boys.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Review: THE LOVING DAD'S HANDBOOK: Raise Them Like Your Life Depends On It

THE LOVING DAD'S HANDBOOK: Raise Them Like Your Life Depends On It THE LOVING DAD'S HANDBOOK: Raise Them Like Your Life Depends On It by George Zelina
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Loving Dad's Handbook is a book any father, the young dad to be to the seasoned father of a teenager, could benefit from. Zelina's writing style is informal yet still packs a punch with straightforward, sincere advice.

The tagline, so to speak, is Raise them like your life depends on it. That theme is alive throughout the book by emphasizing how being a good father not only benefits the child but also dad. Mastering fatherhood isn't the goal here because the best thing a superb father can do is change and grow with their child. The sense of always learning is imperative to success.

For those of us who need to see something in action to really grasp it, Zalina has included links to videos that highlight the topic is any given part of the book. Linking to a video of Ryan Reynolds attempting to assemble an Ikea crib tells you all you need to know about this book. Simply put, The Loving Dad's Handbook is perfect for those who don't take themselves too seriously to be taught a thing or ten.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As you can probably guess, The Law of Attraction and Gratitude is a self help book based on the idea that if we are grateful for what we have rather than focusing on what we don't have we will be happier. If we are happier, it seems logical to say that we will be more positive and that positivity put out into the world can and will attract more positivity to our lives. With that positivity comes, you guessed it, more to be happy about therefore restarting the cycle.

The author, Avinash Singh, states that the first step in this process is to take stock of one's self by way of a five minute exercise consisting of staring one's self down in the mirror.I suppose it is a logical first step and the rest of the book flows along in rather the same matter of fact manner. There are case studies explored of actual people and their experiences related to the ideas presented in the book. Overall this is a plain language guide to not being a cry baby and taking responsibility for the state of your life now and in the future.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review: One Noble Truth

One Noble Truth One Noble Truth by Clay Lomakayu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clay Lomakayu's One Noble Truth brings forth the idea that the key to finding personal peace is to connect with the true center of one's self. The philosophy that anyone can find their true, eternal happiness and freedom within themselves isn't a new concept but this plain language guide to the lifestyle is actually refreshing and inspiring. Descriptions throughout the book are detailed and engrossing, drawing the reader slowly but deeply in. Before you know it, you are actually feeling more calm and somehow the writing style accomplishes this.

I really fell into the book and it's teachings when talk of Circles came about. Whether it be physical or metaphysical, the subject was so simple yet so all encompassing. I particularly enjoyed the stories of native tribes and the idea that man is intrinsically linked to the Earth. The concepts of good, evil, darkness, love, fear, and trust are explored and the multitude of ways they all influence each of us is fascinating. This is a self help book with heart.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Review: Voidstalker

Voidstalker Voidstalker by John Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Voidstalker is a science fiction thriller by John Graham. Here, humans have gained access to alien technology which has advanced the exploration and even settlement of interstellar worlds. How we managed to get our hands on this technology and how many unsavory deeds are committed for and with it along the way are questions for our hero, Gabriel Thorn. Thorn is sent to investigate when a distant research facility goes radio silent.

This novel is typical in the vein of 'humans have once again taken something benign and twisted it to justify doing terrible things to one another'. In this case though, Graham goes even further and shows us spreading our greed and horror across the whole of space. A proud moment, indeed. Upping the ante on evil to be fought truly makes Voidstalker a science fiction novel for science fiction fanatics and will not disappoint them in the least.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review: Milestone: Project Amber

Milestone: Project Amber Milestone: Project Amber by Carl Lakeland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now that is how you write a killer opening scene, folks! No pun intended. Milestone: Project Amber, The Milestone Incident takes place in Australia. Events from 1996 preface this account of a young, idealistic journalist named Angel. She has landed the interview of a lifetime smack dab in the midst of some shady happenings concerning risks to national and global security, it's do or die time for this punchy young woman. Cark Lakeland whips up a tight thriller full of intrigue that evolves into science fiction seamlessly. I've never read anything like it. Each character, even minor ones, feel fully developed and utilized perfectly to enhance the story. Not one sentence of dialogue reads forced or wasted. I found myself nearly obsessed with the story and figuring out where it was all leading.

I appreciated the suddenness of the plot twists throughout. It was nice not to see things coming chapters in advance. There are several loose ends and those would irritate me if this weren't the first of a trilogy. I hope the author is holding some things back to explore in future volumes.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review: Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber

Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber by Various
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anthologies are beginning to grow on me. I've been a die-hard fan of the traditional novel format almost to the point of feeling like Walt in Gran Torino about anthologies. I think even the anthologie lover will find themselves thrilled with how good this one is. The blurbs attempt to prepare the reader for the elaborate range of subject matter and styles of writing. Having the opportunity to sample such a wide range of authors and types of prose is often underappreciated. Personally, I have never warmed to poetry, yet the poems here at least expose me to some styles I can honestly say I've never come across before. No one ever suffered from too much exposure to literature, right?

There is something in these pages for everyone. Genres include science fiction, drama, thriller, suspense, and tragedy.

Styles include short stories, poetry, and essays.

Topics include transexualism, autism, gender, social norms and deviance, morality, revenge, and murder.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review: Make Your Own Neural Network: An In-depth Visual Introduction For Beginners

Make Your Own Neural Network: An In-depth Visual Introduction For Beginners Make Your Own Neural Network: An In-depth Visual Introduction For Beginners by Michael Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel like I should preface this by saying I am the past person you would find reading a tech book. My husband is the IT guy and I'm happy to leave anything computer/technology related to him. In fact I'm beginning to think that's the secret to our marriage but I digress. Going in a novice, this book still managed to teach me something without making me feel like a fool. The writing is simple and explanatory without being boring. Diagrams throughout the book are surprisingly intelligible and uncomplicated. This is unsurprisingly necessary in a book on a topic as complicated as I find this subject matter. Now my husband read through the book and found it to be too elementary for him to enjoy but that's the difference in our levels of prior knowledge. As he said, I doubt many tech experts would find this on their reading list since it is written as a beginners guide. Serving as a beginners guide, I think it's very well written and full of clear, straight-forward information on the nuances of neural networks. The terms section in the back was especially helpful!

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Review: The Cross Tells Me

The Cross Tells Me The Cross Tells Me by Darren Cox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Darren Cox's The Cross Tells Me is the story of Adelphi, a small country town somewhere in America and their devotion to a large cross that sits on top of a figurative pot of gold in the form of an oil reserve. Bill McFar can't understand why these people are so against simply removing an old wooden cross. What follows is a story of this man learning about this town, their faith, and ultimately how to believe from that very cross, itself. I found the idea of the cross coming to life to show Bill exactly why the residents were fighting so hard to keep it, a brilliant idea. As I read the synopsis and got it into my head what to expect, never once did that scenario pop into my head. It's rare for that to happen when you've read as many books as I have.

The Cross Tells Me is a shorter novel and well written, save some typographical errors sprinkled throughout. I am agnostic teetering on the edge of atheism so I'll admit to bristling a bit at the subject matter. I found that I was able to enjoy the story regardless and so I imagine it would do very well in Christian literary circles.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review: Monarchs and Mendicants

Monarchs and Mendicants Monarchs and Mendicants by Dan Groat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Monarchs and Mendicants, Dan Groat brings to life a thriller with heart and grit. Set against the dreary backdrop of street life and homelessness, we find ourselves torn in our disdain for the killer of these vulnerable people and shame in the fact that our main character, Gilford, is among the untold number of homeless veterans in this country. The way the struggles of those living on the streets are highlighted succeeds in pounding home the desperation and unrelenting pressure a life like that brings with it. That these people, the downtrodden and discarded of society, are the ones targeted by The Homeless Hacker is only slightly more infuriating than the fact that no one but other homeless seem to care.

I couldn't tell you what specifically it is about Groat's writing that creates such a vivid image of the world of the story. It's more than just descriptive writing, of that I am sure. His characters and their worries become your friends and your own worries, their pain your pain, their fear your fear. Masterful. Monarchs and Mendicants weaves mystery, drama, and thrills with a story of one man working alongside others like him to lift himself and them out of their respective holes of life while they work to better their community with positivity.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review: Happiness for Beginners: The Power of Positive Thinking

Happiness for Beginners: The Power of Positive Thinking Happiness for Beginners: The Power of Positive Thinking by Ani Right
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tend to be a little skeptical at first of books that promise to teach me how to be happy, considering that happiness is a fluid concept and not even remotely the same for everyone. Happiness for Beginners, written by Ani Right, focuses on positivity, the power of positive thinking, and gratitude as a gateway to finding inner peace and therefore being a happier person. The book is full of exercises and honestly, common sense ideas, to teach the reader how to begin to steer clear of negativity, allowing for more positive influences to fill the mind and soul. There is much written here about gratitude and how when one begins to pay attention to the things they already have and are lucky to have, life can almost immediately look better, leading to a more affirmative point of view overall.

Ani Right has written an uplifting, no nonsense approach to steer the reader into a better perspective on life and the world. I believe in these trying times, no harm can possibly come from trying to become happy.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Review: Willakavillle: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness

Willakavillle: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness Willakavillle: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness by Bald Guy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Willakaville is a collection of zany children's stories by Bald Guy, an alter-ego of the author, Mathew Heinecke. I can see this appealing to a wide range of readers, from young elementary school kids all the way to adults. I play an adult in my daily life and I enjoyed it! Each story is filled with an imaginative kid trying to solve a dilemma and learning valuable lessons through the ordeal. Many have some sort of supernatural aspect to them and all of them are brilliantly written with bright descriptions, whimsical dialogue, and entertainment value to spare. If you know a kid who would find demolishing giant tomatoes, talking turtles, and best of all - a mayo peddler who disappears as he farts - funny, then you have the perfect book for their To Read list.

I see there are more books in this series and I hope the author can continue to bring to life these kind of entertaining, wholesome stories for young readers.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: Fired Up

Fired Up Fired Up by Anna Durand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm always looking for my new favorite romance book couple and unfortunately Mel and Adam fell a bit short. On one hand, I was thrilled that the two were actual friends and the author didn't try to sell insta-love to me. On the other hand, I feel like I was told they were friends rather than their friendship being developed in the book. I appreciated the mostly tasteful sex scenes and that their story was the real meat of the novel. Often that isn't the case in the contemporary romance genre so it was refreshing here. Of course we have the vengeful ex/villain with Devon, only Devon was just this nuisance character that I felt was only there to highlight how amazing and hard to lose Mel is. That could have easily been done in a dozen other, non-typical ways. Then we have the ever popular hero/heroine completely overreacts to some perceived betrayal, leading to the couple nearly breaking up for all of eternity, followed quickly by being mercifully brought back together after one of them has something incredibly dramatic happen to them which of course shocks the other into realizing they he/she absolutely, without a doubt cannot live their life without the other and they live happily ever after.
Now that all sounds a bit snarky and as though I didn't enjoy Fired Up but I actually did. Despite some tired, cliche moments, the dialogue was fresh, the story flowed and was well paced, and it was HOT! We read romance books for some hot romance, right? Well, you won't be disappointed with that aspect at all, promise.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: Spirituality 103, the Forgiveness Code: Finding the Light in Our Shadows

Spirituality 103, the Forgiveness Code: Finding the Light in Our Shadows Spirituality 103, the Forgiveness Code: Finding the Light in Our Shadows by Ivan Figueroa-Otero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third and final book in this trilogy devoted to teaching one to live a truly spiritual life. I have not read 101 and 102 so going into this cold may give me a different outlook on it than those who have been with the author since book 1. I admire the idea of forgiveness and achieving a sense of well being and overall peace through the act of forgiveness. Perhaps that's because I hold onto grudges like a life vest but the way the author writes makes me want to at least try his teachings. That is, after all, the point of writing a book like this, right? In my opinion, the epilogue was excellent for wrapping up the trilogy - even without having read the first two! Another four books are to come in the same vein? Count me in.

I agree that this book will probably be best understood by more mature readers. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, they'll grow into it eventually.

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Review: Wallace Street: A hardscrabble neighborhood seeks revenge against a child predator

Wallace Street: A hardscrabble neighborhood seeks revenge against a child predator Wallace Street: A hardscrabble neighborhood seeks revenge against a child predator by Tess Devlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tess Devlin's, Wallace Street, takes us into a disintegrating toward neighborhood of Chicago in the 1950s. Various characters are introduced and fleshed out to the perfect degree to enhance the story. Because the point of view changes so often and there are so many characters, it can be a bit cumbersome in the beginning keeping track of them all. The effort is well worth it though when slowly the way their lives intertwine is revealed and then a monstrous tension builds as one innocent child after another disappears. As the fear and fury rises in the neighborhood everyone decides that they'll be the ones to find and stop this predator. The mobsters, a street cop, one of the residents, the detectives assigned to the case... they are all trying and none actually cares who gets the job done, as long as the murderer is stopped. The list of suspects is long, red herrings are aplenty, and the twists and turns come at a furious pace.

Though there were a few editing and grammatical errors, it was not enough to detract from the story, even for a grammar Nazi like me. The novel on the whole was gripping, well paced, and truly as realistic as it was terrifying.

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Sunday, September 24, 2017


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Smoke and Tranquillity by Robert Swann is titled as book #3 in the Simon Hunter series. I don't like starting a series anywhere but the beginning and I wish I had that opportunity here. From the get go, I felt like Simon Hunter was an alias considering his nefarious past, however, I'm not privy to that information if it were given in previous books. Imagine my delight when I learn his true identity! He is a spy, for lack of a better word, working for both the United States and Britain which in itself deems him an unreliable character. Whatever his official title, he's done some way not nice stuff to people in the past and apparently it's reckoning day for Mr. Hunter. His moral code and hefty taste for justice make Simon Hunter a fierce opponent to those who would try to cross him.

This novel starts out strong with an interesting hook, the points of view were perfect in my opinion, dialogue was succinct and matched well with the pace of the story. I love the way Swann writes. I will be seeking out more of his books in the future.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: City of Angels

City of Angels City of Angels by K. Patrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

City of Angels by K. Patrick chronicles the life of a young boxer named Michael Connolly as he grows up in East L.A. His trainer, Jerry, is an ex-con who squandered his talent as a fighter but wants to help Michael make it to the Olympics. Michael lives in one group home but gets sent to another where he develops deep connections with Maria and Lizzie. Together they are a family. Unexpected events conspire to land Michael in a position he never saw for himself and his struggle to navigate the treacherous new waters is a journey from bottom to top back to bottom. The ending is uncertain for Michael and his little family and you'll be hard pressed to find a band of characters you will root for more.

There is a lot of dialogue in this book and it is all very well done and necessary to keep the story flowing throughout the entire 750+ pages. This is a very long book but that worked in it's favor for me. The characters were fantastic, the story was very well written,and City of Angels goes to the top of the list for this reader.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: Curve Couture: A Beautiful Romance

Curve Couture: A Beautiful Romance Curve Couture: A Beautiful Romance by H.M. Irwing
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Curve Couture by H.M. Irwing is a contemporary romance featuring a plus-size woman in the fashion industry, hence the title 'curve couture'. Erin and Claire. I'll be honest, it took a bit for me to get used to thinking of an Erin as male. I kept thinking about the name Claire. I think Judd Nelson said it in Breakfast Club, it's a fat girl name. And the woman on the cover? Not exactly a plus size woman, which 78% of American women actually are but only represented 2% of the time by women in magazines. So, I'll be honest, I went in with a crinkled nose.

The character names aside, Curve Couture is actually pretty good. Claire is a woman who, if not at complete peace with herself, is well on her way. Of course she has anxiety and hang ups about her body but we need that for her to be relatable. Claire is definitely relatable. She's snarky and funny and she was fun to get to get to know. Janice was annoying and a bit of a monster, as was her fiance, Colin. I care so little about them that I breezed over their parts, to tell the truth.

There is a lot of humor in this novel, the dialogue is good and feels real in many places but also falls into the cheesy category at times. Some of the issues that come up are a little contrived, such as when Erin has taken too many of his anti-depressant before he has sex with Claire and she freaks out... Sorry but that rang way too true to Jessie and her caffeine pills on Saved By The Bell.

All in all, though, Curve Couture was the perfect book for an afternoon on the beach or on a rainy evening on the couch, those times when you just want to float away and let another world and it's people perform for you.

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